Monday, February 25, 2008

2008 Academy Award Post-Mortem/Quiz

The last thing the world needs is another blogger opining on this year's Oscar broadcast, but seeing how most "Hollywood insiders" are major douches, I'd thought I'd quickly summarize my thoughts.

Yay: The Coens winning (I also yay all the There Will Be Blood nominations, I am still pleasantly surprised this film has been winning over critics and audiences, who I assumed would consider it too bizarre and unsavory). Javier. Danny D-Lew. Robert Elwist (even if Roger Deakins should have gotten something for his overall awesome year). Jon Stewart--I know some people don't dig him, but I thought his opening monologue had a more favorable hit to miss ratio than the majority of Oscar hosts. I did miss the highlight from the 2006 ceremony, the fake smear campaign ads of nominees, but I am happy that unlike some people, coughBillyCrystalcough, he doesn't just regurgitate his popular material. Also come on, the guy's classy as hell letting Marketa Irglova give her speech. Ironically enough the satirical montage tributes to binoculars and awakening-from-dream scenes were actually less lame than the majority of the actual montages(how many were there, 16,000?).

Nay: Diablo winning. All the Oscar nominated songs except "Falling Slowly". The Atonement score winning, not only because Jonny Greenwood should have won, let alone be nominated (dumb Oscar rules) but because it's a second rate Phillip Glass rip-off. Deeming Brad Renfro and Ulrich Muhe unworthy of the memorial tribute (Scheider missed the cut-off date apparently). The Fucking Jerry Seinfeld BEE: dude, let it die.

Other than that, not much worth getting my panties in a bunch.

I hosted an Oscar party this year and in addition to the predict the winners contest (where I ended up in fourth place with 13 correct predictions), I also created a 25 question Oscar History quiz that I had my guests answer. Out of my eleven friends the most anyone got correct was 16 (congrats, Chan!).

Do you think you can do better? Well, here it is, I'll abide by the honor system--so no Wikipedia or IMDB. If you are interested, please put your answers in the comments section. In a couple of days I'll post the correct answers there.


The 2008 Jack Klugman Honorary Oscar Quiz

(beware the trick question or two)

1. Which film won the Oscar for Best Picture 20 years ago?
A. Broadcast News
B. Fatal Attraction
C. The Last Emperor
D. Moonstruck

2. Which film won the Oscar for Best Picture 30 years ago?
A. All the President’s Men
B. Annie Hall
C. Apocalypse Now
D. Star Wars

3. Which film won the Oscar for Best Picture 40 years ago?
A. Bonnie and Clyde
B. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
C. The Graduate
D. In the Heat of the Night

4. Which film won the Oscar for Best Picture 50 years ago?
A. The Bridge on the River Kwai
B. Giant
C. The Ten Commandments
D. 12 Angry Men

5. Which film won the Oscar for Best Picture 60 years ago?
A. Gentleman’s Agreement
B. Great Expectations
C. It’s a Wonderful Life
D. Monsieur Verdoux

6. Which classic male movie star never won an Acting Oscar?
A. Humphrey Bogart
B. Clark Gable
C. Cary Grant
D. Gregory Peck

7. Which classic female movie star never won an Acting Oscar?
A. Ingrid Bergman
B. Judy Garland
C. Audrey Hepburn
D. Grace Kelly

8. Which one of these is the only classic director to win an Oscar for Best Director?
A. Howard Hawks
B. Alfred Hitchcock
C. Orson Welles
D. Billy Wilder

9. Another classic iconic director who never won an Oscar was Stanley Kubrick, although he was nominated multiple times, for which film did he not receive a Best Director nomination?
A. Dr Strangelove
B. A Clockwork Orange
C. Barry Lyndon
D. Full Metal Jacket

10. Which actor/director has never won the Oscar for Best Director?
A. Warren Beatty
B. Mel Gibson
C. Paul Newman
D. Robert Redford

11. Which actor/director is the only person to not be nominated for Best Actor & Director for the same film?
A. Woody Allen, Annie Hall
B. Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven
C. Slyvester Stallone, Rocky
D. Orson Welles, Citizen Kane

12. Who is the only French native to never earn an Academy Award nomination?
A. Juliette Binoche
B. Alain Delon
C. Gerard Depardieu
D. Catherine Deneuve

13. Who is the youngest nominated Actress?
A. Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
B. Jodie Foster, Taxi Driver
C. Tatum O’Neal, Paper Moon
D. Anna Paquin, The Piano

14. Who is the oldest nominated Actor?
A. George Burns, The Sunshine Boys
B. Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond
C. Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
D. Peter O’Toole, Venus

15. Which actor never received a nomination for their performance as a member of the Corleone family in The Godfather films?
A. James Caan (Sonny)
B. John Cazale (Fredo)
C. Al Pacino (Michael)
D. Talia Shire (Connie)

16. For which film did Meryl Streep earn her first of 14 Academy Award nominations?
A. The Deer Hunter
B. The French Lieutenant’s Woman
C. Kramer Vs. Kramer
D. Manhattan

17. For which film did Tom Hanks earn his first Academy Award nomination?
A. Big
B. A League of Their Own
C. Philadelphia
D. Splash

18. Steven Spielberg’s first Best Director nomination came for which movie?
A. Jaws
B. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
C. E.T.
D. Schindler’s List

19. Which of these is not a sequel to a Best Picture winner?
A. The Empire Strikes Back
B. The Evening Star
C. Hannibal
D. They Call Me Mister Tibbs

20. Which Academy Award did the first Godfather film not win?
A. Best Actor (Marlon Brando)
B. Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola)
C. Best Picture
D. Best Screenplay (Mario Puzo & Coppola)

21. Which is the only Western never to be nominated for Best Picture?
A. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
B. High Noon
C. The Searchers
D. Unforgiven

22. Which famous author never received an Academy Award nomination for their work as a screenwriter?
A. William Faulkner, To Have and Have Not
B. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
C. Dorothy Parker, A Star is Born
D. John Steinbeck, Lifeboat

23. Which actor has not won an Academy Award for their work as a screenwriter?
A. Mel Brooks, The Producers
B. George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck
C. Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility
D. Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade

24. Which one named musical artist has never won an Academy Award?
A. Eminem
B. Madonna
C. Prince
D. Sting

25. Which famous score did not win the Academy Award for Best Original Score?
A. Chariots of Fire (Vangelis)
B. Psycho (Bernard Herrmann)
C. Star Wars (John Williams)
D. The Wizard of Oz (Herbert Stothart)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Trailer of the Week: My Most Highly Anticipated Movie of Summer '08

No, it's not Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Kingdom of the Last Crystal Skull of the Ark or whatever they're calling it these days. Don't get me wrong, I am looking forward to Steven Spielberg returning to the kinetic action genre, and the trailer does look fun (and Cate Blanchett in tight leather...meow) but there are three factors preventing me from having my excitement raised beyond the "as long as it isn't as bad as The Phantom Menace" level: 1.) Unfortunately, I am the only person alive not to have caught Shia LaBeoufever, he seems to be a likeable enough guy but based on the two movies of his I've seen, Transformers and Disturbia, which granted are both bad movies, I haven't seen anything in him other than a propensity to smirk. Hopefully he'll finally prove to me why Spielberg has decided the kid worthy of being cast in every movie he's remotely involved. 2.) While all the previous Jones films featured state of the art special effects of the day, the action sequences we're pretty much all on-set stunts, the warehouse chase here features heavy use of CGI (and if you are really bored Google Jim Broadbent and CGI pants to see a curious debate the trailer has caused amongst fanboys). 3.) Two words: George Lucas. Yeah, the dude behind the Star Wars prequels. I know he didn't direct or write this, but, he's a major player in the franchise, and did I mention he's the dude behind the Star Wars prequels?

While I'll approach May 22nd with tempered anticipation, the trailer that has me psyched is the red band (meaning cannot be shown in movie theatres for films not rated R and therefore "not safe for work") Pineapple Express.

When it was announced that the vulgar yet sweet styling of producer Judd Apatow and co-writer/star Seth Rogen were collaborating with George Washington and All The Real Girls director David Gordon Green, whose natural lyricism directing resume brings to mind more Terrence Malick than The 40 Year Old Virgin, I thought there might be a natural clash, two great tastes that wouldn't taste great together, peanut butter and hummus, but looking at the trailer, the film looks to be something that I adore: a cinema-knowledgeable mash-up of genre styles (pot comedy, buddy action film)in the vein of some of Jonathan Demme's 80's work like Married to the Mob and Something Wild, films that served and operated in multiple genres, never settling to be just a, say, mob movie with some humor, but a full blown comedy and mob film.

David Gordon Green's movie literate style (in the preview alone there are visual shout outs to Tarantino and Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye) should prevent the inevitable "everything Apatow related" backlash that people will jump on after his less interesting looking producing input Saving Sarah Marshall and Drillbit Taylor open this Spring. It's also great to see James Franco return to playing a sweet dimwitted stoner in the vein of his break-out role as Daniel Desario in Freaks and Geeks after countless bland brooding roles in uninspiring films.

If you don't find the sight of Seth Rogen's (aided by wires)jump off the balcony in the warehouse and Franco's failed attempt to kick in the car window to be glorious and/or hilarious, than I might have no use for you as a human being.

Great use of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" too:

Opens August 8th.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Death Is Going to Need a Bigger Boat

Roy Scheider 1932-2008

Roy Scheider may not have possessed the movie star looks, his face sans the puncher’s nose is non-distinct and perhaps too “everyday man”-ish, nor decades long endurance, the last movie role I recall of his was The Rainmaker where he had a cameo as the over-tanned CEO of the evil insurance company (although according to his IMDB page he was in the Thomas Jane version of The Punisher, which I did see, but honestly I don’t remember his appearance or much of anything of the film—there was one cool fight between Jane and some big ass guy in a stairway…and uh, that’s about it) nor iconic screen persona of some of his peers like Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Jack Nicholson but when it comes to 1970’s portrayals of masculine determination in American cinema, I’d put his performances and filmography between the years of 1971-80, which included The French Connection, Jaws, Marathon Man and perhaps his greatest role, as Bob Fosse surrogate Joe Gideon in All That Jazz, up to their level (I’d also toss Warren Oates name into the conversation).

I had just recently seen for the first time William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, the infamous remake of Wages of Fear and Friedkin’s follow-up to The Exorcist. Scheider still hot off of his lead performance in Jaws, at the time the highest grossing movie in history, was cast after Steve McQueen dropped out due to Friedkin not giving his wife Ali McGraw a cosmetic producing credit. In the fascinating if flawed film, Scheider portrays Jackie Scanlon, a low rent driver who takes part in a plot to rip off the mafia, but when the plan goes awry, as plan to rip off the mob are wont to do, he flees to South America where he lives in squalor under the assumed name of Dominguez. He and three other men with similarly checkered pasts are given the chance to earn some serious cash and citizenship if they can export some nitroglycerin through the jungle in semis with sputtering engines. Of course there are dangerous detours and hazards that test the men’s ability and sanity, the nitroglycerin precariously straddling the point of explosion serving as an ample metaphor for the men’s, and Scheider in particular, emotional wherewithal. {SPOILERS TO FOLLOW} When Scheider alone completes the mission he collapses, a cathartic moment as his utter exhaustion reveals that only the basest human determination got him to the completion. Scheider plays this scene wonderfully, not overstating the moment with histrionics, after hearing reports of director Friedkin’s on set personality, this scene may have served as a true representation of Scheider’s psychology at that very moment. I do feel Friedkin erred a bit with the little dark ironic coda that follows this cathartic moment, where it’s revealed that the mobsters Scanlon were running from are in the same town as him, undermining a great moment.

I think Scheider could have only flourished in two eras of American cinema, and luckily he was around for one, the 1970’s. The other era being 40s-50s film noir, where he could have competed for lead roles with the likes of Van Heflin, Dana Andrews and John Garfield. I am a little bummed that a director such as Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson or Steven Soderbergh never gave him that one last great defining role(s) and rediscovery that they gave to the likes of David Carridine, Burt Reynolds, Kurt Russell, Terrence Stamp and Phillip Baker Hall. The last major project which he was cast in the lead was in 1994, when he reunited with Steven Spielberg and an aquatic setting for the highly hyped but ultimately ratings starved action/sci-fi television series Seaquest DSV. He did keep working steadily over the last twenty years, although mostly in direct to television or video projects. According to other appreciations I’ve read since his passing, he gave a powerful performance on an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent last season (you know what’s weird? I’ve never seen a single minute of any Law and Order show). While it’s a shame he fell out of the limelight, at least he didn’t coast on personality and become a self parody as Pacino, DeNiro, Nicholson and Christopher Walken have recently.

Here’s the trailer for Sorcerer:

And the most harrowing moment of the film, the crossing of the dilapidating bridge (in 2 parts):

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